Wednesday September 5, 2012

With just a day to go before the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary, the three candidates vying for the seat are busy pulling punches and dropping names as they make their final pitch to voters.

Over the weekend, incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced an endorsement of his candidacy by former President Bill Clinton, who writes in a campaign mailer that "no one works harder for the people of western and central Massachusetts than [Neal] does."

Meanwhile, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and writer-activist Bill Shein have continued attempts to chip away at Neal's campaign with a barrage of attacks challenging his record and leadership.

In the absence of any Republican contenders, the primary Thursday will likely decide who will next represent the newly reconfigured district on Capitol Hill.

Clinton's endorsement of Neal is being announced to voters in a mailing the campaign says has been sent to every registered Democrat in the district, which includes all of Berkshire County and the southern half of the Pioneer Valley and Springfield. The campaign said voters can also expect to receive a robo-call voiced by Clinton.

Neal said in a statement that he is "proud to have the endorsement of President Clinton."

The endorsement is one of a handful Clinton has made in congressional primaries around the country. The endorsements have primarily gone to incumbent Democrats who, like Neal, endorsed his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her primary bid against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential race, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At the same time as Neal unveiled his high-profile backer, Nuciforo and Shein unleashed a flurry of campaign statements echoing earlier criticisms of Neal and challenging the veracity of his campaign statements.

Shein tore into Neal's television ad and campaign mailers, in which Neal says he "won" with legislation he filed to close loopholes that let U.S. corporations evade taxes by setting up bogus headquarters overseas.

Shein pointed out that the legislation Neal references, which would target the so-called "Bermuda loophole" is still pending, citing a 2011 Boston Globe article that states Neal "has been thwarted for years in his efforts" to close the loophole, with the likelihood of progress in the near future unlikely.

"The ad's claim is simply false and meant to mislead voters about a nonexistent accomplishment," Shein said in a statement. "Rep. Neal could certainly earn kudos for his efforts without making a patently false statement, but it might be difficult for voters to square with his frequent claims about his power in the Ways and Means Committee and his inability, over the last 12 years, to pass a bill to close the Bermuda loophole."

Neal's campaign responded by outlining two pieces of legislation that were passed as part of larger measures. One bill, co-sponsored by Neal and included in the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Em ployment Act, requires foreign-held assets be reported to the IRS. Another bill authored by Neal and included in the American Job Creation Act of 2004 allows the government to continue taxing corporations that expatriate to foreign tax havens if the makeup of the company in question remains the same and it has no real business in that country.

At the same time, Neal's campaign said the congressman is still working to close other offshore tax evasion loopholes like the one referenced by The Globe in 2011.

Nuciforo, meanwhile, zeroed in on Neal's past support for financial deregulation measures, which Nuciforo called "instrumental in the 2008 financial crisis."

"Between 1994 and 2000, Congressman Neal supported five measures that deregulated the banking, investment and securities markets," Nuciforo said in a statement. "These measures contributed to the financial calamity in 2008, the collapse of the housing market and the foreclosure crisis."

Nuciforo went on to criticize Neal for "failing to explain" during debates "his lack of leadership regarding "the foreclosures and his consistent support for the Wall Street agenda."

During debates, Neal has repeatedly called Nuciforo's charges false.

The candidates continue campaigning today. Both Neal, Nuciforo and Shein will travel throughout the district, including stops in Berkshire County.

To reach Ned Oliver:
noliver@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @NedOliver

At the polls ...

What: State primary for 1st Congressional District and Middle Berkshire District register of deeds

When: Thursday; polls open at 7 a.m., close at 8 p.m.